BRENDAN RODGERS reckons Celtic will be STRONGER than last season’s treble-winning squad – after the transfer deadline is passed at midnight on Thursday.

The second time-around Hoops manager agrees the champions are weaker at the moment than the previous campaign, but hopes to turn that around after some frantic wheeling and dealing within the next six days.

Rodgers has seen two of Ange Postecoglou’s stalwarts – Filipe Jota and Carl Starfelt – sold this summer while the defensive rock of Cameron Carter-Vickers will be missing through injury for around TWO months.

DEBUT DEFEAT…new Bhoy Gustaf Lagerbiekle saw Celtic knocked out of the Viaplay Cup in his first appearance.

Also ruled out for lengthy periods are Maik Nawrocki, the recent £4.3million recruit from Legia Warsaw, and Stephen Welsh, who stepped in for the USA World Cup central defender in the Hoops’ 3-1 win against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Alistair Johnston has yet to kick a ball in competitive action for the Irishman plus the influential Reo Hatate is also sidelined with a calf problem, setbacks which have contributed to the squad’s woes at the moment.

Six players have been introduced as well as Nawrocki – Norwegian midfielder Odin Holm, Australian winger Marco Tilio, Swedish pivot Gustaf Lagerbiekle and South Korean duo Yang Hyon-jun and Kwon Hyeon-kyu.

The Parkhead side have been linked with £3.5million-rated Honduran flanker Luis Palma of Greek club Aris Thessaloniki, as CQN reported yesterday.

Asked if he believed his squad could be better equipped than last term after the window closes, Rodgers answered: “Yes, hopefully, we will be.

“I would say we have strengthened the squad, it is the TEAM we need to improve.

GONE BHOY…Filipe Jota celebrates his Scottish Cup semi-final winner at Hampden last season – much to the annoyance of the opposition support.

“There has been a lot of really good work done on bringing in Yang and Odin Holm and all these guys, who will end up, I’m pretty sure, being very good players for the club.

“The point I will make is that we will work very, very hard here to try to improve the squad.

“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes within the recruitment and trying to identify players who fit into the model. That will continue.”

Rodgers, speaking to The Scottish Sun, added: “There is no doubt that we lost a matchwinner in Jota, we lost Carl Starfelt who was a regular player in the squad.

“You then look at Cameron Carter-Vickers being out, a mainstay of the team over the last couple of years. Reo Hatate, too.

“Okay, he’s not quite been at the level he has been at, but I’m pretty sure he would get to that very soon.

“So, all of a sudden you are missing players of that quality.”

Rodgers will now have to pick his way through his available pool of players as he prepares for the visit of St Johnstone for tomorrow’s 3pm kick-off.

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